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The 100

Bad Influence
Reviewed by Jenny LeComte
Rating: 7 Beans

hen you get a thriller this lukewarm, you can be sure it made the transition from the movie theatre to the video shop bargain bin in record time.
"Bad Influence'' stars James Spader, who gave a stellar performance as an impotent voyeur in "sex lies and videotape''. It also stars Rob Lowe, who starred in a videotape of a slightly different kind (hint - it involved underage girlies and nearly ruined his career).
Spader plays Michael Boll, the Casper Milquetoast of LA high finance. Although he has a high-powered job as a marketing analyst, lots of shiny suits, a chic minimalist apartment and his own cappucino maker, Michael doesn't have any balls. He's forever being thwarted by his more ruthless business rival Patterson (Tony Maggio) and he got engaged to Barbie doll wannabe Ruth Fielding (Marcia Cross) because she forced him into it. Basically, Michael's content to drift through his life like a good little geek and be everybody's doormat.
Enter Alex (Rob Lowe), a mysterious drifter with a penchant for mind games, bizarre sexual practices, violence, mayhem, armed robbery, murder. You name it -if it's a felony, Alex is probably into it. Alex and Michael meet in a bar (never a good omen for a long-term friendship, in my view). Michael is happily getting plastered when a yobbo comes in and accuses him of "looking at'' his girlfriend. Michael makes the mistake of answering back (that's how clueless he is) and it's on for young and old. Enter Alex, who smashes a beer bottle on the counter and nearly starts a riot.
At that stage in the game, I was shouting "run, little boy, RUN!'' But what does Michael do? He meets Alex while jogging the next day and goes out drinking with him. Hell-o?! But wait, viewers. It gets worse. After a beer or six, Alex takes Michael to an underground club where you gain entry by saying "athletic adventurous swinger with a penchant for gerbils'' (or something equally stupid). This becomes a habit after a while. Instead of going home to his saccharine-sweet fiance or climbing into bed with a good book on higher mathematics, Michael starts hanging round with Alex every night. The constant round of clubs and kicks and copious amounts of alcohol start to take their toll. Michael, who Alex rechristens "Mick'', spends an awful lot of time in the bathroom sticking his head under the cold water tap. He also starts dabbling in a touch of insider trading, a dab of computer fraud and a wee bit of armed robbery (wearing a rabbit mask and making squeaking noises, no less). He insists he's having the time of his life. Grand theft auto anyone?
Somewhere along the line, Alex sets Michael up with a predatory arty type called Claire (Lisa Zane) who favours backless dresses and zipless sex (go to bed with the guy first, THEN find out his name). Claire ignores Michael in a club and only goes home with him because Alex is along for the ride. Why Michael allowed these two kooks into his flat in the first place is anybody's guess. I guess that's the kinda guy he is - impetuous.
Anyway, Claire gets pissed on rum and makes a beeline for Alex, who shoves her in the direction of Michael. At this stage, Claire is so inebriated she will shag anything. Michael's so blown away by the wicked thrill of the night that he does the deed...while Alex is videotaping them.
"You make a funny face when you come,'' says Alex the next morning. "Can I sleep here while you go to work?''
"Sure,'' says Michael. "Lock the door.''
I mean, is this guy missing a kangaroo in the top paddock or what? Alex must have given Michael a lobotomy while he was sleeping off that post-coital high.
When Michael attends a party with his fiance and her family the following night, Alex gatecrashes and shows them the video of Mick and Claire in x-rated action. The engagement is off, I guess. Now what's poor old Mick gonna do? Oh, nothing much. Just a drink a few bottles of vodka and go on an all-night crime spree with Alex. And I gotta tell you - when Alex parties, he PARTIES. Here's some sample dialogue from the "morning after the night before'', when Mick woke up with the mater and pater of all hangovers.
Michael: Did we go to Patterson's last night?
Alex: Yes. We went to Patterson's.
Michael: I mean, I didn't hit him, did I?
Alex: You didn't just hit him. You beat the shit out of him.
Michael: What the hell were you doing?
Alex: Holding him down.
Whoo, boy! About this time, Michael decides he's got to get the psychotic Alex out of his life. Alex, meanwhile, has other ideas. He murders Claire and silly old Mick can't even call the cops because - courtesy of his night on the tiles - he's got fraud, larceny and armed robbery on his rap sheet.
So Michael elists the help of his pothead brother Richard (strangely, the actor who plays Richard isn't listed on the movie credits - I reckon it's James Spader doing a double act). Richard and Michael beat Alex at his own game in a very long, dragged out ending. To give you an idea of how slow the ending is, think molasses in January or a wet week of Sundays.
I found it hard to stay seated throughout "Bad Influence", actually. I was jumping up and down like a jackrabbit. I kept leaving the room to fetch drinks, snacks and newspapers (some of which I actually read during the film, I was so bored). The only good thing about "Bad Influence'' is it's just about cured my insomnia.

"Bad Movie Night" is a presentation of
Hit-n-Run Productions, © 1997-2006,
a subsidiary of Syphon Interactive, LLC.

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